Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop talks to The TOY Project

1st June is International Children’s Day and to mark this whilst the shop is closed during the health crisis we asked all our podcast guests to allow us to make a print of their favourite image and offer exclusive sales to raise money for The TOY Project, a charity based in North London that recycles toys to raise money for children’s charities. I spoke to Jane Garfield, the founder of The TOY Project:

Louise: Hi Jane, I first met you at the Toy Fair and was attracted to your stand there as it was full of recycled ‘cool’ toys and very different from the commercial toy companies stands.  We spoke and it transpired that you run a charity called the TOY Project. Can you tell me about it?

Jane:  The TOY Project gives toys to children who need them. We encourage children to donate their unwanted new and used toys and then we redistribute these to children who need them. By doing this, we are teaching children the importance of recycling, reducing landfill, and providing opportunities for play to a wide range of children. We support children in hospitals and hospices, schools and nurseries, as well as vulnerable families. We also have a shop where children are encouraged to buy preloved toys and games rather than buying new, again reducing their contribution to landfill.

Louise: You have a background as a teacher, is that correct? How important are toys and play for children?

Jane: Yes, before starting The TOY Project I was a primary school teacher for over 20 years. As well as learning to engage in activities purely for joy, play has a fundamental role in children’s learning and understanding of the world. By exercising their imaginations through role play, children are able to develop their life skills. Toys and play are also a great tool for making learning more engaging and hands on, creating more purposeful learning experiences.

Louise: You especially like puppets and their importance in teaching. Why puppets?

Jane: Puppets create a gateway between you and the child. The puppet acts as a face of the learning and creates an extra dimension to the experience, bringing stories and learning to life. Children can also utilise puppets to express themselves without feeling shy to share their personal thoughts and ideas. By speaking through the puppet, a child is able to share their feelings and contributions more freely.

Louise: What are you and the TOY Project doing the Covid-19 crisis?

Jane: Covid has, I believe, had a unique impact on everyone. For us personally, a huge part of what we do happens in our shop, which has been temporarily closed due to the virus. However, we are still ensuring any child in need brought to our attention is provided for. We are using the toys we have in our warehouse storage to supply children with toys and games whilst they are staying home and social distancing. We are also providing schools with resources to support the children of key workers who are still going to school every day as well as a number of children of hospital staff across London hospitals. Because the toys in our warehouse are our supply for Christmas, the toys have been untouched for many months.

Louise: In support of the TOY Project’s great work we have asked our podcast guests to donate a piece of artwork that chimes with Children’s Day. We are going to team up with our printers LDP/Kingsway Gallery to print them as high quality artists print. All proceeds will go towards the Toy Project. Please contact us if you would like to purchase a print in support of The Toy Project.

Thank-you to Dolly Treasures, Charlotte Cory, Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Simon Seddon for their generosity in donating their work for the project.